Hemingway on HBO, Fitzgerald on Film: Is There a Lost Generation Boom?

Last summer’s Midnight in Paris took as its subject a young writer given the tremendous opportunity to meet his literary idols–the writers of the expatriate clique, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway. It could as easily have been about any young writer or moviegoer as about Owen Wilson’s character, with the current great interest in Jazz Age characters.

Aside from the slew of instantly recognizable literary figures that helped make Midnight in Paris Woody Allen’s biggest hit ever (each speaking in the arch style of his or her own writing, to knowing chuckles from the audience), last night saw the debut of HBO’s prestigey Hemingway and Gellhorn, about the romance between Ernest (Clive Owen) and Martha (Nicole Kidman) when both were war correspondents. (A second Hemingway biopic is in the works, starring Anthony Hopkins rather than the dashing youngish Mr. Owen.)

The year’s buzziest new trailer, too, was not for a superhero flick but The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann’s visually lush Fitzgerald adaptation due out this winter. The immediate response–to the casting, the mise-en-scene, the music–proved just how many people feel a proprietary sense towards the source material. And why shouldn’t they? Hemingway and Fitzgerald are two of the first “adult” writers one reads–and the two American writers, aside from Harper Lee, that just about everyone reads in school. Returning to their legend, the mutual sense of end-times doomed romance in both writers’ work and life, makes sense, as it’s about the only American myth just about every moviegoer has heard of. Compared to Gatsby, Iron Man’s an unknown.